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Artistic, musical Opening Ceremony signals start of 30th Summer Universiade

NAPOLI, 4 July - The much awaited 30th edition of the Summer Universiade is off to a start! Sergio Mattarella, the President of Italy, declared the games open during an opening ceremony that was a feast of music, art, culture and sport. As the Universiade Cauldron was lit at the San Paolo stadium by Neapolitan football hero Lorenzo Insigne, more than 6,000 student-athletes from over 100 countries erupted in celebration, ready for the multi-sport spectacle that may define their sporting careers.

The ’U’ of the Universiade was a constant motif throughout the ceremony, representing a big hug from the warm locals to the thousands gathered from all over the world. The ’U’ also represented the Napoli 2019 slogan

The evening began with the appearance of the mascot Partenope, the mythical siren or mermaid who appeared from the sky and floated gracefully onto the sea. At one end of the stadium was the glistening float representing waves and on the other, a replica of Mount Vesuvius glowing in shades of amber and red – the imagery thus capturing the very essence of Napoli.

As the Athletes Parade began, large delegations like China, Australia, USA and Japan received a resounding welcome from the crowd.

There was a special welcome in store for Argentina though, as the Maradona-mad public reserved one of the loudest cheers for them. Brazil can always be counted on for making an entrance and they did not disappoint. 116 athletes donning aprons and chef hats danced their way across the stadium.

As the Russian delegation came onto centre stage, they were serenaded by 16-year-old singer Carmen Pierri, winner of the Italian edition of ’The Voice’. Pierri kicked off a series of celebrity appearances that included popular Italian singer-songwriter Malika Ayane, Paralympic fencing champion Beatrice ’Bebe’ Vio and three-time Olympic diving champion Klaus Dibiasi among many others.

When the formal part of the proceedings began, FISU President Oleg Matytsin struck a chord with the locals by reminding them of how closely Italian sport is intertwined with university sport.

"It is here, in Italy that the Universiade started 60 years ago," he announced. "It is from here that our movement started and then spread all around the world. It has become stronger because the lessons of sport have proven to be as powerful as anything we learn in the classroom."

He also had a message for the athletes. "Not all of you will finish with a medal, but please remember that one victory is available to all of you - the chance to leave Napoli as a better person,” he said to thunderous applause from the crowd.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach spoke to all through a video message. “Always compete with the Olympic spirit of friendship and respect," he said to the athletes. “Perhaps Napoli will be the beginning of your journey to the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.”

Then, President of Italy Sergio Mattarella officially declared the Universiade open as the FISU flag was carried in with great pomp and splendor by eight very eminent sportspersons, academics and researchers. The crowd was then treated to a surprise appearance from homegrown football stars Alex Meret, goalkeeper of the Serie A club Napoli and his captain, Italian international and mega-star in these parts, Lorenzo Insigne.

The symbolic lighting of the Universiade Cauldron took place as Insigne kicked a ball that burst into flames before soaring off towards Mount Vesuvius.

The final flourish came from arguably the best tenor in the world today – Andrea Bocelli, whose melodious voice enthralled the spectators and resonated in Stadio San Paolo as the clock struck midnight.

Finally, all the cast of the entire Opening Ceremony entered the scene to witness the fireworks display that erupted in the sky, high above the Napoli coastline.

Posted by Tina Sharma Tiwari, FISU Press Officer on 2019-07-04.
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